West, Keller among CenterFest stage performers

Sep. 19, 2013 @ 01:38 PM

Vocalist Laurece West’s recording “Essence of Love” includes a track titled “Jasmine,” which West describes as a “sound collage.” Its lyrics are dedicated to Mehera Irani, a close disciple of Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba. West’s vocals and the music of guitarist Kevin Van Sant, percussionist Beverly Botsford, and bass player Doug Largent give this song an otherworldly feel.

West gave author credit to all the musicians because “Jasmine” was completely improvised in the recording studio. “I also completely improvised the lyrics,” West said. “Jasmine” is an example of her preferred process of creating songs: “I try to work with people who are more accomplished than me. It’s always best to be learning from people,” she said. “I give them the structure of the song, and we work it out together,” a process that is more interesting than dictating the song, West said.
West will perform Sunday at CenterFest, joined by Van Sant, Botsford and Ben Palmer on bass, her first festival. The Durham-based vocalist studied voice, and has been teaching voice for about 20 years. Beginning Wednesday, she will be teaching a “song writing boot camp,” a 12-week course “for people to hunker down and have the tools to write a whole CD of material,” she said.
West also plays electric bass, piano and keyboards. She lists many influences – Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Ella Fitzgerald among them.
West prefers to write original tunes, sometimes with other musicians, rather than arrange standards. Arrangements of those originals are a collaborative process, she said. On the tune “Planets Collide,” she played around with rock and folk-rock styles, “and this is the happiest version of it,” West said. She originally wrote “Ocean” as a slow blues, but percussionist Botsford suggested another type of rhythm that gave it “more of a world beat,” she said.
At CenterFest, the audience will hear some tunes from “Essence of Love,” and some originals from a new recording she hopes to release in spring 2014.
The festival’s performance stages will have local musicians representing the diverse styles and genres that can be heard in and around Durham.
Pianist Chris Keller & Aurora Jazz will be performing Sunday. She will be performing with Brevan Hampden on drums, John Simonetti on bass, LeRoy Barley on trumpet and Tim Smith on saxophone and vocals (Smith is also a member of the vocal band Thelonious, who will perform Saturday at The Herald-Sun stage).
A graduate in piano from UNC, Keller performs locally, but also has toured internationally. For six years she performed in a series of Jazz for Peace concerts in Venezuela. She was an artist in residence for the opening of the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, at which her band performed a "Jazz for World Unity" concert. She plays locally and regionally with her ensemble.
She has a recording (which can be heard on Reverbnation.com). It has arrangements of jazz standards and classics, among them “Song for My Father,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “Groovin’ High.”
Although classically trained, “my leanings now, as they always were,” are toward jazz playing. One can hear blues-style chords in the music of composers Maurice Ravel and Sergei Prokofiev, she said. “The spirit of the music touches so deeply that you do not realize it.”
At CenterFest, Keller & Aurora Jazz will play jazz classics, along with some Afro-Cuban and Latin-influenced styles.


Performance note: Laurece West will perform at 4:20 p.m. Sunday on The Herald-Sun stage at CenterFest. Chris Keller & Aurora Jazz will perform at 4 p.m. Sunday on the Main Music Stage at CCB Plaza during CenterFest.

More information is available about the arists at:
laurecewest.bandcamp.com or www.laurecewest.com